Prior to my time in Thailand, my observations and experiences with monks and the Buddhist religion were understandably miniscule. For example, who knew monks like taking selfies just like us? Anyways, when we arrived in Chiang Mai, I was excited to visit the sacred temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Located on Doi Suthep mountain, and perched above beautiful Chiang Mai, visiting Doi Suthep is a staple to your Chiang Mai visit, as it is a “north star” of sorts to the city. My friend Ellie, who is living in Chiang Mai (you can follow her blog here!), shared that you can always see Doi Suthep, day or night, clear skies or foggy!
The legend behind Doi Suthep begins with a monk and his dream. The monk, Sumanthera, dreamt himself instructions for a grand adventure to Pang Cha in search of a relic. Sumanthera’s quest began and ultimately delivered a bone that many believed to be Buddha’s shoulder bone. The bone exhibited magical powers, so Sumanthera took the relic to the King. As it always seems to happen when you want to show something off, the relic did not exhibit the magical powers (and all I can imagine Sumanthera saying is, “it glowed five minutes ago!”). The king, doubtful of the bone’s magical powers and authenticity, told our monk to keep it.
However, another king heard of Sumanthera’s magical bone and requested he bring the bone to him and this time, the bone revealed its magical powers and broke into two pieces. So one piece was sent to one temple, and the other piece was placed on the back of a white elephant that was released into the jungle. The elephant climbed Doi Suthep mountain (quite a trek if you ask me!), trumpeted three times and then dropped dead of exhaustion. Taken as an omen, the king immediately ordered the construction of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. And there you have it folks. An abridged version of a 900 year old legend.
From watching people circling the temple with flowers, to smelling the burning incense, to listening to people reciting prayers, to feeling all the textures of the walls, and fabrics (also there was delicious gelato waiting for me just outside the temple!), visiting Doi Suthep can only be described as a completely sensory experience.
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